Needless to say that the worldwide pandemic has deeply affected the world of professional sports, and Formula 1 was no exception. Drivers and teams had to adapt to challenging health and security measures, a shortened race calendar comprising 17 races, and the absence of motoring fans in the stands.
Most importantly, drivers had to re-adjust their physical and mental preparations when they found themselves with no races to compete in until July, after the season pre-testing took place in February. With more free time on their hands this year, one must wonder if drivers’ appreciation of time has changed. We caught up with Mercedes F1 driver Valtteri Bottas to discuss his perception of time, his preparation, and his partnership with the watchmaking maison IWC Schaffhausen.
Q: First of all, congratulations to the Mercedes team for its 7th consecutive constructors’ championship! How does it feel to be part of such a dominant F1 team?
Valtteri Bottas: Thank you very much, obviously it was nice to make history and it is of course a real privilege to be part of the team. Sometimes we don’t realize it because we are in it and obviously we work towards our targets and the team’s targets non-stop, but when we stop and think about it, it’s pretty cool.
Q: You started go-karting at 5 years old and racing at 6, was there another sport you think you would have been good at?
VB: Racing was definitely the sport I got most excited about when I tried go-karting for the first time.
Q: This year has been very difficult due to the pandemic, how has your preparation for the season been affected this year?
VB: For sure, everyone was prepared for the start of the season in Australia in March, but that didn’t happen so you have to come up with another plan to make the most out of the few months we had without racing. You have to focus on your physical training and also mental health to stay fresh and ready to go. Otherwise, right now for each race weekend, the preparation hasn’t really changed. Actually, maybe a positive thing is that we have less travelling between the races and there are less other commitments which helps to recharge the batteries between the races.
Q: Time is a very crucial aspect of racing but also life in general; is your perception of time different when you are in an F1 car compared to your personal life?
VB: Time is everything for sure. I have realized that the perception of time in the car is different; when you are 100% focused and using all your abilities, time goes quicker. But there are moments in time where there’s a bit of action, or when you’re having a big slide with the car, a moment where you feel like you have more time available, you feel like it’s a bit of a slo-mo. And during my free time, I notice that time tends to fly.
Q: Which of the two perceptions is more important to you as your career advances?
VB: For sure on the track. It’s where I hold my targets, my career.
Q: With Mercedes you are now an ambassador for IWC watches; what have you learned about the brand since joining IWC?
VB: I’ve learned a lot about different models, new materials and the technology involved in watchmaking. I’ve been able to learn about watchmaking itself and go inside the watch and look at the small details so I learned a lot with the brand.
Q: I believe you’ve had an interest in watches well before your partnership with IWC, what was your first encounter with watches and what attracts you to watches now?
VB: I was pretty young when I started to kind of collect watches. I think the first one I got myself I was 14, it was nothing expensive obviously but it was my first watch. Then my first bigger well-known brand I picked up was in 2009 when I won one big race. I was saving for quite a while and when I got the prize money I bought it. It’s also nice to link a new watch to something that you remember like a certain result or a win. Now obviously I have quite a few IWCs and I love them all.
Q: What are the similarities you can draw from watchmaking and motorsport?
VB: First thing is the time element. We are timed and rated on how good we are based on lap times, so time is the big link. But the watchmaking industry is now pushing the limits with any kind of high tech materials; and also the technology inside the watch, that’s quite interesting because motorsports, especially F1, is very much a sport that is technology driven.
Q: Watch brands have always been very present in F1; are most of the drivers in the field watch enthusiasts and do you all sometimes talk watches during a race weekend?
VB: I would say so, I think it goes hand in hand. Normally if you like cars, you’re also a watch person. I think watches are an important thing for all the drivers and all the F1 drivers are quite fortunate where they would normally get an opportunity to be in partnership with good brands so that helps; and yeah, we do speak about watches.
Q: If you could create your own unique watch with IWC, how would you design it?
VB: That’s something I would really like to do in the future. It would be a combination of everything that I like. My favorite color is blue so it would have at least some bits in blue, for materials I’d love to have the best of what is available at the moment and have the watch lightweight. It would have a chronograph as well, at least 14 days of power reserve, and something to do with time zones, because I travel a lot so the GMT is quite nice to have.
Q: You are an avid cyclist; are there any aspects of cycling that you bring with you to F1? Is it the same kind of mental strength and focus that is required for the two sports?
VB: I am indeed a very passionate cyclist, it is a hobby for me but of course I also do it for training to be fit to drive. In terms of endurance training, cycling is the best because you can do lots of hours without really injuring yourself. If you compare it to running for example, you can easily have issues with knees or ankles. The good thing about being on a bike is that you need to stay focused, depending on the terrain it can be challenging mentally, it’s better than if you are on a treadmill for a long time where you don’t really have to focus, so it’s a nice combination.
Q: Do you use any techniques such as meditation in your quest of performance?
VB: Not really, I’ve never done anything like this. For me it comes automatically, when it’s time to go, time to be ready, I don’t think about anything else apart from driving. I think that’s something I’ve learned from a young age from Go-Kart and Junior Formula.
Q: Is there an aspect of your sport that you think people misunderstand?
VB: Probably how busy we actually are, especially during a normal season. It’s not all in the race where we show up, we drive, and go home. Usually we do all kinds of events and meetings. After the race you might go home but most of the time you might go to another destination for a sponsor or marketing reasons, or to the factory, the simulator, or meetings with the team so actually the season is super intense and very long, so all the work between the races is a bit hidden from all the people.